The series of tragic drownings in the Okanagan this year likely isn’t over since the risk is highest during the summer months.
“With hot and sunny weather coming this BC Day long weekend, people will be looking to cool off at their favourite swimming destination,” said Samantha Bruin with the B.C. Injury Research and Prevention Unit.
“Drowning can happen quickly and quietly, but it is preventable and there are many ways to be water smart to keep you and your loved ones safe,” she said, noting an average of 75 people die in B.C. each year from drowning with young men and kids under five at the highest risk.
In the South Okanagan, Osoyoos RCMP said a
41-year-old Oliver man was on a stationary boat in the middle of Osoyoos Lake on July 25 with a friend, playing fetch with his dogs when one of the dogs apparently became distressed and the man swam out to help it. The man and dog became separated from the boat due to the wind; the friend witnessed the dog climb on the man’s back, weighing him down and the man disappeared from sight.
On June 18, Oluwaseun Samson Adedeji, 34 of Calgary, jumped into Okanagan Lake from a boat between Rattlesnake Island and Squally Point near Peachland and never resurfaced.
Late on June 17, group of young people may have tried to swim in the Penticton River Channel, but the fast-moving water pushed one of them out into Skaha Lake.
Campers Daniel Ferrer, Dr. Henry Reis and certified lifeguard Bruno James grabbed a boat from a nearby car and on the lake, spotted a victim with his head barely above water gasping for air. James jumped in and pushed him into the boat, barely breathing and very cold.
On May 28, a young family’s two-year-old child misstepped when walking along a Naramata beach dock, fell into the water but had great difficulty staying afloat in the extremely cold water. One of the guardians jumped into the water, but was also having difficulty fighting the strong current and low temperature. An off-duty Penticton RCMP officer, trained in specialty life-saving techniques, overheard their calls for help, jumped into the lake and was able to bring the child safely back to shore. The guardian was able to swim back to shore without assistance
On July 18, a man drowned in Wood Lake while trying to help someone else struggling in the water.
On June 14, Chelsea Cordno, 31, of Kelowna, and her German shepherd JJ were walking on the Mission Creek Greenway when they may have slipped into the raging creek. Her body was subsequently found on recently flooded farm property.
In fact, the Interior Health Region accounts for 34% of the province’s drowning deaths despite having only 14% of its population. Okanagan Lake is the most deadly but six of the 10 B.C. lakes where people have drowned are in the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.
The B.C. Coroners Service says there were 34 deaths from 2017 to 2022 in the Okanagan health service delivery area which extends to Sicamous, 15 of those in Okanagan Lake.
The BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, located at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, says: males are at higher risk of drowning than females; young people aged 20-34 are at the highest risk of drowning; young children under five years old are at high risk of drowning as they don’t understand the danger; and alcohol and/or drugs were a factor in 38 per cent of drowning deaths.
Drownings occured in lakes/ponds 34 per cent of the time; in rivers 32 per cent; oceans 14 per cent; bathtub seven per cent and other places 13 per cent.